Caroline Graham Analysis


(Masterpieces of Fiction, Detective and Mystery Edition)

Caroline Graham began her writing career in 1971, primarily composing scripts for radio and television. Her first two novels, Fire Dance (1982) and Envy of a Stranger (1984), went virtually unnoticed, and she did not gain a measure of fame until her creation of Detective Chief Inspector Barnaby of Midsomer Worthy in The Killings at Badger’s Drift (1987) on the advice of her publicist. The novels in the Barnaby series, which are about unthinkable crimes in small English villages, remind the reader of mysteries by writers such as Agatha Christie and Dorothy L. Sayers, but through Graham’s inclusion of video cameras, cell phones, and computers, she brings her stories into the modern era.

Graham’s novels charm the reader with layers of wit and dark humor. She fills her works with a vocabulary that reveals her botanical and theater interests and with alluring real-life characters ranging from blacksmith, to librarian, to lord of the manor. Her novels deal with village life and its inner workings, and using the picturesque village setting as a backdrop, she creates strange twists of plot that would seem to be more likely to occur in a larger city. Her characters often deceive others by having the appearance of wealth although their true financial circumstances are quite desperate. Graham takes the reader into the ugly, hidden reality of some of the villagers’ lives. By highlighting the eccentricities of some of the villagers and their struggles with class, she has created an alluring setting for crimes that are shocking and ironic partly because of where they occur.

Caroline Graham Bibliography

(Masterpieces of Fiction, Detective and Mystery Edition)

Fletcher, Janet, and R. E. K. Fletcher. Review of The Killings at Badger’s Drift, by Caroline Graham. Library Journal 113, no. 1 (January 1, 1988): 102. A favorable review of Graham’s award-winning first work in the Barnaby series that remarks on the contrast between Barnaby and Troy and the numerous colorful eccentric characters.

Klein, Kathleen Gregory, ed. Great Women Mystery Writers: Classic to Contemporary. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1994. Entry on Graham looks at her works and life.

Melton, Emily. Review of A Ghost in the Machine, by Caroline Graham. Booklist 100, no. 22 (August, 2004): 1905. Reviewer states that this Barnaby series novel is what Agatha Christie, Stephen King, and Maeve Binchy might produce if they wrote a book together. The plot involves Mallory Lawson, whose aunt dies and leave him an inheritance and a house in the village of Forbes Abbot.

Rowland, Susan. From Agatha Christie to Ruth Rendell: British Women Writers in Detective and Crime Fiction. New York: Palgrave, 2001. Although this work does not specifically deal with Graham, it describes the writers on whom her work is patterned and therefore sheds light on her works.

Stasio, Marilyn. “Crime.” Review of Faithful Until Death, by Caroline Graham. The New York Times Book Review, September 13, 1998, 40. In this Barnaby series novel, Simone Hollingsworth, a newcomer to Fawcett Green, disappears. Her husband is a suspect until he also is killed. Reviewer notes the many odd-ball characters created by Graham.